By Kate Blankinship
Most students remember the moment they chose which college to attend, whether it’s receiving the long-awaited acceptance letter or finally settling on a school after an endless debate. Emily Driscoll didn’t make the decision, rather it was her little sister who clicked UChicago’s commit button.
As it turns out, her sister choose the right school for Driscoll, who’s explored her passion for linguistics as a UChicago student. Driscoll became involved in French Club her first two years, progressing from a Francophile Liaison to President. Fourth-year Driscoll is now a leader of wUGLS, the Undergraduate Linguistic Society. Even during her summers, Driscoll has traveled, diving head first into the world of foreign language and culture.
The summer after high school, Driscoll won an Alliance Française of Chicago Scholarship, allowing her to spend five weeks in Paris learning French at l'Université de la Sorbonne. The next summer, she returned to her roots, coaching Illinois’ Certamen teams for the Latin knowledge bowl competition, and chaperoning her high school's junior classical league to the national convention.
It was the summer between her second and third year that Driscoll, with a Metcalf grant, got the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong and work as a research assistant at the Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong with Professor Gladys Tnaf. This experience would come to influence both her next two years as an undergraduate and her post-grad plans.
“Getting to work as a research assistant was an invaluable experience and helped me realize both that I am very interested in sign language linguistics and that I truly enjoy research and am almost certainly going to apply to PhD programs in linguistics after I graduate,” Driscoll said. “I was equally excited to make the most of my ability to travel over the summer. I completely fell in love with the city of Hong Kong and was really grateful to have met all of the lovely people who work at the Centre.”
Wanting to enhance her sign language skills, Driscoll studied American Sign Language at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the summer before her fourth year. She hopes to use this experience to become more involved in sign language research when she returns to UChicago in the fall.
While Driscoll loves studying ASL, one of her more influential classes remains a French class she took the fall of her second year. She was the youngest of the ten students, half of who were PhD candidates in French Literature. Though a daunting class at first, she found it rewarding, having improved not only her French and but also her critical reading and writing skills.
“The paper I wrote for my final in that class remains the paper I'm most proud of writing during my time at UChicago,” she said.
Driscoll is also involved in UChicago’s Housing system. She not only joined the Inter-House Council her first and second years, she was also a Resident Dean’s Assistant for Renee-Granville Grossman East (RGGE).
“Getting to establish a relationship with my amazing [Resident Deans] and being involved in the programming for students throughout the dorm is an experience for which I am immensely grateful and which has shaped my time here at UChicago in a very profound way.”
Her involvement in Housing continued after she left RGGE. Driscoll is now the Resident Assistant of Shorey House and the Senior Resident Assistant of International House.
Somehow, Driscoll still finds time to spend with her friends, despite her hectic schedule as an RA and student.
“Many of my happiest moments have been quiet ones of just enjoying the company of the brilliant, compassionate people I've had the fortune to get to know over the past three years,” she said.
Driscoll admits to sometimes wondering what it would have been like if she had chosen another school, if her younger sister hadn’t hit UChicago’s commit button for her. But she stands by the fact that UChicago allowed experiences that wouldn’t have existed at other schools.
“I have been so profoundly influenced by the particular friends I've made and the particular professors here at UChicago and the particular communities I've connected to that I have absolutely no idea what kind of person I would be had I not had the experiences that have shaped my time at UChicago.”